Birthmarks: Transracial Adoption in Contemporary America / Edition 1

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Can White parents teach their Black children African American culture and history? Can they impart to them the survival skills necessary to survive in the racially stratified United States? Concerns over racial identity have been at the center of controversies over transracial adoption since the 1970s, as questions continually arise about whether White parents are capable of instilling a positive sense of African American identity in their Black children.

"[An] empathetic study of meanings of cross-racial adoption to adoptees"
—Law and Politics Book Review, Vol. 11, No. 11, Nov. 2001

Through in-depth interviews with adult transracial adoptees, as well as with social workers in adoption agencies, Sandra Patton, herself an adoptee, explores the social construction of race, identity, gender, and family and the ways in which these interact with public policy about adoption. Patton offers a compelling overview of the issues at stake in transracial adoption. She discusses recent changes in adoption and social welfare policy which prohibit consideration of race in the placement of children, as well as public policy definitions of "bad mothers" which can foster coerced aspects of adoption, to show how the lives of transracial adoptees have been shaped by the policies of the U.S. child welfare system.

Neither an argument for nor against the practice of transracial adoption, BirthMarks seeks to counter the dominant public view of this practice as a panacea to the so-called "epidemic" of illegitimacy and the misfortune of infertility among the middle class with a more nuanced view that gives voice to those directly involved, shedding light on the ways in which Black and multiracial adoptees articulate their own identity experiences.

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Editorial Reviews

Law and Politic Book Review
[An] empathetic study of meanings of cross-racial adoption to adoptees.
From the Publisher
"BirthMarks clarifies the complexities of transracial adoption, but it does much more than this. Sandra Patton's detailed and sensitive research helps us understand the depths of racial identity itself. The lesson here is that racial identity is not something given, but something achieved. This resonates not just for the adoptees Patton studies, but for us all. It suggests immense possibilities for resisting racism. Transcending the simplistic ‘pro vs. con' debate about transracial adoption, Patton strives to present racial formation as a highly nuanced process of becoming oneself."

-Howard Winant,Temple University

"A compelling mixture of voices and social analysis . . . required reading for anyone seriously interested in adoption and families in a multiracial world."

-Maxine Baca Zinn,Michigan State University

"This superb study of transracial adoption in the United States addresses profoundly vexing and divisive questions about the social, biological, cultural, and political meanings of identity. Displaying a rare blend of sociological wisdom, empathy, and eloquence, BirthMarks demonstrates how and why there can be no such thing as color-blind families or adoption policies so long as the color line remains an intractable American dilemma. Anyone who cares about the changing contours of families and race today should eagerly adopt this marvelous book."

-Judith Stacey,author of In the Name of the Family

"[An] empathetic study of meanings of cross-racial adoption to adoptees."

-Law and Politics Book Review,Vol. 11, No. 11, Nov. 2001

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814766828
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 236
  • Sales rank: 1,428,291
  • Product dimensions: 0.54 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

SANDRA PATTON is Visiting Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is a former Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Narratives of Adoption, Roots, and Identity 1
1 Origin Narratives 28
2 Navigating Racial Routes 62
3 Searching: "I Have a Family with No Blood" 99
4 Producing "IL/Legitimate" Citizens: Transracial Adoption and Welfare Reform 130
Conclusion: Narratives of Identity, Race, and Nation 168
Notes 193
Bibliography 197
Index 217
About the Author 223
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2001

    Moving and Powerful Voices of Adoptees

    The voices of the adoptees in this book are incredibly powerful. Not only did the book open my eyes about the experiences of transracial adoptees, but it put them in a larger context of race relations and politics in the U.S. It's also beautifully written. Everyone involved with adoption and anyone interested in race, family, and identity in America should read this wonderful book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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